McMINNVILLE, Ore. – For the third time this season, Linfield outlasted its opponent in five sets, scoring a victory over rival Willamette in the Northwest Conference opener for both teams Friday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium. The Wildcats snapped a three-match losing streak against the Bearcats, winning 25-19, 23-25, 25-19, 12-25, 15-12.
The ‘Cats (6-2, 1-0 NWC) are now 3-0 in matches decided by five sets and have won four straight matches. Willamette, meanwhile, dropped its third straight match to fall to 2-6 overall, 0-1 in conference action.
Back-to-back kills from senior Madisyn Leenstra helped Willamette open up an early 8-3 advantage in the first frame. The Wildcats scratched their way back to within one, and seized their first lead of the match at 12-11. With momentum on its side, Linfield closed on a 10-5 run, aided by three kills each from Kelsey Ludin (Sr., Bozeman, Mont.) and Leimomi Hookano.
Ludin and Hookano combined for eight of the home team’s 12 kills in the opening set, while Leenstra finished with six for the visiting Bearcats.
Trailing 4-3 in the second frame, Willamette scored five straight points to take the lead, which it never relinquished. The Bearcats did not run away with it, however, allowing Linfield to put together a late run and tie the set at 23-23. But a clutch kill from Leenstra followed by an attacking error by the Wildcats ended the set and tied the match at one win apiece.
Kailana Ritte-Camara (Jr., Molokai, Hawaii) supplied three kills to key a game-changing 5-0 run that put Linfield up 15-12 midway through the third set. Willamette never got closer than three points after that, as Linfield registered a match-high .225 attack percentage to win the first set out of the break.
With their backs against the wall, the Bearcats turned to their defense to force a fifth set. Willamette recorded three blocks in the fourth frame alone, holding Linfield’s hitters to just eight kills and a match-low .040 attack percentage. Offensively, Leenstra and Carly Hargrave tallied 11 of the Willamette’s 14 kills as the visitors crushed Linfield 25-12.
Every play was big in the short fifth frame, but none was bigger than Hookano’s match-ending kill, which gave the 'Cats a 15-12 victory. Victoria Thompson (Jr., Newberg, Ore.) was stellar on both offense and defense, assisting on three blocks while adding three kills.
Ritte-Camara led the Wildcats with 13 kills, with Hookano contributing 12 more and Ludin and Thompson adding 11 each. Audrey Frazier (Jr., Albany, Ore.) spread around 36 assists and libero Courtney Wanamaker (Jr., West Linn, Ore.) dug 21 balls.
For Willamette, Leenstra earned match-high honors with 22 kills, Emily Compton dished out a match-high 43 assists and Kathy Lee Glenn led the defensive effort with 39 digs.
COMING UP: Linfield hosts its second Northwest Conference opponent in as many days when Lewis & Clark comes to town Saturday night. Match time is set for 7 p.m.
Three kills in decisive fifth set
Director of Sports Information
McMinnville, OR 97128